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One of the most common questions that our law office receives from debtors is, “When should I file for bankruptcy?” There is no single answer to this question. Every situation is unique and influenced by various factors. With the help of an experienced bankruptcy attorney, you will be guided on when to file for bankruptcy in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Miller & Miller Law, LLC is the competent, experienced, and reputable bankruptcy attorney that you can trust. We have been practicing bankruptcy for more than 20 years already, which has enabled us to gain substantial knowledge and experience. We can help you by starting a free case evaluation with us today!
How Does Bankruptcy Work in Milwaukee, Wisconsin?
In most cases, filing for bankruptcy in Wisconsin is largely similar to filing in any other state. The bankruptcy process is governed by federal law, rather than Wisconsin state law. Its purpose is to dissolve the contractual obligations between you and your creditors, providing you with an opportunity for a fresh financial beginning.
The primary purpose of bankruptcy is to address the inability to repay debts by either discharging them (eliminating the legal obligation to repay) or establishing a manageable repayment plan. The specific type of bankruptcy chapter chosen depends on the debtor’s financial situation and goals. Below are some of the important things to note to answer the question “When Should I File for Bankruptcy?”
What are the Differences Between Chapter 7 & Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as in other parts of the United States, key differences exist between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Here’s an overview of the distinctions:
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy (Liquidation)
- Asset Liquidation: In Chapter 7, a trustee may sell non-exempt assets to repay creditors. However, many assets are protected by exemptions under Wisconsin law, allowing individuals to retain them.
- Debt Discharge: Upon completion of the Chapter 7 process, eligible debts are typically discharged, relieving the individual of a further legal obligation to repay them.
- Income Eligibility: To qualify for Chapter 7, individuals must pass the means test, which assesses their income and expenses. If your income is below the state median or you meet specific criteria, you are more likely to be eligible for Chapter 7.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy (Reorganization)
- Repayment Plan: Chapter 13 involves creating a repayment plan to pay off all or a portion of your debts over a period of three to five years. The plan is based on your disposable income.
- Asset Retention: Unlike Chapter 7, Chapter 13 allows individuals to keep their assets, including non-exempt property. The repayment plan is designed to repay creditors over time while allowing the individual to maintain their possessions.
- Steady Income Requirement: Chapter 13 requires a steady source of income to make regular plan payments. This structure is suitable for individuals who have a consistent income but need assistance in managing their debts.
What are the Dischargeable And Non-Dischargeable Debts in Bankruptcy?
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as in other parts of the United States, bankruptcy law distinguishes between dischargeable and non-dischargeable debts. Dischargeable debts can be eliminated or “discharged” through the bankruptcy process, relieving the debtor of the legal obligation to repay them. Non-dischargeable debts, on the other hand, cannot be eliminated through bankruptcy, and the debtor remains responsible for repaying them even after the bankruptcy proceedings.
Here are some common examples of dischargeable and non-dischargeable debts in bankruptcy:
- Credit card debt
- Medical bills
- Personal loans
- Past due utility bills
- Collection agency accounts
- Some older tax debts
- Civil court judgments (unless related to fraud or malicious conduct)
- Repossession deficiencies (the remaining balance after a vehicle repossession)
- Business debts (for sole proprietors)
- Certain tax debts (recent income taxes, tax liens)
- Student loans (unless meeting strict criteria for hardship)
- Child support and alimony obligations
- Court-ordered fines and penalties
- Debts arising from fraudulent activities
- Certain types of government-related debts (such as some types of government loans and overpayments)
- Debts resulting from personal injury or wrongful death caused by drunk driving
It’s important to note that this list is not exhaustive, and there may be other specific circumstances that determine whether a debt is dischargeable or non-dischargeable. Additionally, even if a debt is generally considered non-dischargeable, there could be exceptions or certain conditions that may allow for its dischargeability.
When Should I File For Bankruptcy?
In every situation, you have your own valid reasons for why you hesitate to file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. More often than not, filing for bankruptcy too early can result in the loss of property that you are supposed to keep. On the other hand, in some cases, you may find ways to manage your debts and prevent bankruptcy simultaneously. Below are notable situations when it might be reasonable, practical, and beneficial to delay filing for bankruptcy:
If You Can Modify Your Mortgage
People nowadays are filing for bankruptcy to delay or stop foreclosure. While it is true that bankruptcy can be a tenable solution to this problem, many people file for bankruptcy too early than they need to, which makes it more challenging for them to obtain a mortgage modification.
After initiating bankruptcy proceedings, numerous lenders will decline to engage in or sustain discussions regarding your mortgage. This is because your bankruptcy filing will nullify the promissory note aspect of your mortgage, although the lien on the house will still remain. Consequently, there will technically be no remaining grounds for negotiation. If you anticipate the possibility of pursuing a mortgage modification later on, it would be advisable to refrain from filing for bankruptcy until you have a clearer understanding of the direction in which the modification prospects are heading.
If You Have a High Recent Income
Upon filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court will examine your income from the preceding six months to establish your eligibility through a method known as the “means test.” If your income surpasses a certain threshold, you may be restricted to filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which entails repaying a portion of your debts.
In cases where your income has recently decreased due to a reduction in pay or job loss, it is possible to potentially meet the requirements for Chapter 7 bankruptcy by waiting for a few months. By factoring in the months of reduced income during the means test calculation, your average income over the past six months might reach a low enough level to meet the qualifying criteria.
You Don’t Want To Lose Your Property
If you were to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy at this moment, there is a possibility that you may lose certain properties. However, if you choose to wait, you might have the opportunity to retain those properties or have sufficient time to sell them and utilize the proceeds.
If You Think You Are About To Have Debts Soon
If you own assets that do not qualify for an exemption, it implies that the bankruptcy trustee has the authority to seize and sell them in order to satisfy your outstanding debts. Generally, items other than your main residence, car, essential household goods, clothing, and basic necessities fall into this nonexempt category. Nevertheless, if you opt to sell these assets prior to filing for bankruptcy at their fair market value and use the proceeds to cover essential expenses, you would personally gain from the asset instead of allowing the funds to be directed towards repaying your creditors.
Why Do I Need a Wisconsin Bankruptcy Attorney?
If your primary concern is when you should file for bankruptcy, that question cannot be answered by any website you find online. The solution to your financial difficulties lies in contacting the right bankruptcy attorney. Before hiring one, keep the following qualities in mind:
- Competent – Without a doubt, a bankruptcy attorney who has proven his competence is certainly what you should look for. It demonstrates their ability to resolve your financial issues with accuracy and swiftness. A competent bankruptcy attorney will go to any length just to assist you throughout the complex bankruptcy process.
- Strongly Dedicated – A strongly dedicated bankruptcy attorney is everything. Your dedicated bankruptcy attorney will represent you in interactions with creditors, the bankruptcy court, and other parties involved. They will handle the paperwork, legal documentation, and communication on your behalf, reducing stress and ensuring that your rights are protected throughout the process.
- Client-friendly – Financial difficulties are something that should be discussed with compassion and care. You deserve to be thoroughly heard by someone who is prudent, respectful, and knowledgeable. As a debtor, your doubts should be treated with respect and not the other way around.
If you are looking for a Wisconsin bankruptcy attorney, look no further than Miller & Miller Law, LLC. We strive to listen and understand before offering sound legal advice. We assist you not just at the beginning but throughout your bankruptcy journey. For over 20 years, our legal team has helped thousands of individuals in Wisconsin. Get a free case evaluation today!
Call our Wisconsin Bankruptcy Attorney Now!
If you are still asking yourself up to this point, “When should I file for bankruptcy?” that’s totally normal. Bankruptcy is one of the broadest and most complicated areas of law. If you need assistance in understanding something, it’s essential to get in touch with a trusted bankruptcy attorney in Wisconsin.
Competence, dedication, and prudence are qualities possessed by Miller & Miller Law, LLC. With over two decades of experience in practicing bankruptcy law, we have assisted thousands of individuals in Wisconsin. We will help you determine the appropriate timing and approach for filing for bankruptcy. Get a free case evaluation today!
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